1. The first day that Georgia Tech’s reconfigured defensive coaching staff took the field was marked by energy and excitement, and not only by the players.
The Yellow Jackets opened their bye-week practices Tuesday with a full-pads session as the team tried to look forward one day after defensive coordinator Al Groh was fired.
“I think all those guys had a lot of energy [Tuesday],” coach Paul Johnson said of the defensive coaches.
Interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, moved up from his position coaching the secondary, oversaw the defense for the first time. Johnson, who had a lengthy pre-practice meeting with Kelly, spent the majority of the practice with the defense, unusual for him.
“They were flying around, having fun,” said Johnson, who himself was in a brighter mood than he has been through Tech’s three-game losing streak.
Tech mixed in scout-team work in preparation for the Boston College game Oct. 20 with fundamental work that typically gets more practice time during an open week. Johnson said that defensive players have reacted well to Groh’s dismissal.
Groh was fired after Johnson concluded that the defense, which has given up 40 points in each of the past three games for the first time in school history, was not going to improve.
“He’s a great guy,” Johnson said of Groh. “It’d be hard not to like him. But I think they’re excited about a new beginning. They’re not dumb. They know they haven’t been very successful. So it’s kind of a fresh start for them, too.”
Defensive players and coaches were not available for comment Tuesday. They will be made available following Wednesday’s practice. Quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon noticed the charge from the defense.
“I know when they came out for the one-minute drill, they had more spark and energy,” he said. “I mean, they got after us pretty good in the one-minute drill.”
2. Johnson offered further explanation about the changes made on the staff. Special-teams coordinator David Walkosky will continue to oversee special teams as he takes on responsibilities coaching the defensive line. Staff assistant J.R. Dorman, who has helped Walkosky with special teams, will work more with the specialists during practice while Walkosky trains the defensive line.
Johnson said that Andy McCollum, who had been coaching the line, requested to work with the linebackers. He will coach the inside linebackers while Joe Speed, who had been the inside linebackers coach, will coach the outside linebackers.
McCollum has a background coaching linebackers and Walkosky had no preference, Johnson said. He added that it might be helpful to shake up the order “to get another set of eyes to see. [McCollum] might not have the same impression of those linebackers that [Groh] did and the same with the d-line.”
3. Wide receivers coach Buzz Preston said that true freshman Anthony Autry did “alright” in his first start, last Saturday against Clemson. Autry had one catch for 53 yards.
“There’s still a lot more room for improvement, but he did pretty good,” Preston said.
Presuming he has a good week of practice, Autry will keep his spot in the starting lineup. Saturday, Tech’s wide receivers had five catches and no drops. Their blocking on the perimeter helped A-backs Orwin Smith and Robbie Godhigh gain 178 yards on just 11 carries.
“I think the guys are starting to understand that they have to work and if they’ll just keep that right attitude, frame of mind, then we’re going to make some good progress and see some good things happen for us,” Preston said.
Autry, who has received the most playing time of any true freshman, is getting used to it.
“It was (surprising) a couple weeks ago, but not anymore,” he said. “I’m just ready to get better and better every day.”
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